We received this notice in slightly imperfect English from the Cultural Association “Aremenli din Albania”:
R E S O L U T I O N
The first Conference of the Association “Aromanians of Albania,” which gathered today on April 5, 1992, finished its proceedings successfully. It was an important event for the Aromanian population and for the new democracy in Albania. The Conference confirmed the existence and the legitimate authentic rights of Aromanians in Albania, the ethnic originality, the language, customs, and honored culture. All the Aromanians of Albania feel gratitude to this democracy that enables the happening of this Conference in full freedom…
The Conference analyzed the brotherly historical relations between Aromanians and Albanians through centuries, their attempts and contributions for the benefit of our common country, Albania. It confirmed the firmness of the Aromanian people to defend its legitimate rights to maintain and further develop the democracy and material and spiritual progress of Albania.
In order to realize and put into practice the legitimate rights of the Aromanian population, the Conference, having full belief in the new democratic government of Albania, hopes and is fully convinced that:
1. The Aromanians of Albania, as its citizens and an integral part of the Albanian people, known as a particular community using its native language, enjoy all ethnocultural rights like all the ethnic communities of other European countries.
2. There have to be created all conditions in order to enable the Aromanians of Albania to learn their own language and develop their religious and cultural cermonies in the same language.
3. Our Albanian state has to guarantee defense of the human rights of the Aromanian population according to international charters and it must not allow any sign of discrimination toward them, as has happened in the past.
4. The state has to give Aromanians the right to have their radio and TV program, their newspaper, magazine, or other editions.
5. The Association “Aromanians of Albania” must be officially helped and supported by the Albanian state in order to achieve its legitimate aims.
6. To put contacts and widen the relations of Aromanians with Romania and with the Aromanian community wherever in Europe and the world as well. The Romanian government must allow the coming in and out of Aromanians of Albania to Romania without getting a visa, taking into account their common origin and the nearness between them in order to enable the better exchange of ethnocultural values.
At the end of its proceedings, the Conference elected its leading Council, composed of 42 members and the chairmanship composed of the following:
Mr. Ianko Ballamaci, Chairman
Mr. Anastas Buneci, Vice-Chair
Mr. Arqile Dhama, Vice-Chair
Mr. Anastas Kaporan, Vice-Chair
Mr. Nikolla Leferi, Secretary
Despite some obvious shortcomings, like the all-male leadership, this is a pretty remarkable document. As Helen Winnifrith suggests in her article, there are a great many Vlachs in Albania — more than any of us had imagined. And apparently, plenty of them have retained an Aromanian identity; ironically, the very isolation and backwardness of Albania for the last 50 years may have helped preserve their language (the same thing happened over the course of 500 years within the Ottoman Empire).
For a long time now, the Greek government has been allowing Albanian Vlachs into Greece as “Northern Epirotes” while turning away other Albanians at the border. Apparently, the Albanian Vlachs now desire the same or a similar relationship with Romania. The ramifications of this remain to be seen: Will the prospect of divided national loyalties among the Vlachs anger the Albanian government, which until now has been very supportive of Vlach cultural activity? Or will the good offices of the Romanian government lead to even greater support for Vlach cultural activities in Albania and elsewhere? Will Greek Vlachs, who abhor any link to Romania, now become alienated from their Albanian counterparts?
Preferential treatment of our people by other nations is nothing new. Whatever the politics behind these acts of generosity, if our historical ties to Romania and Greece gain us easy entry into those countries, then that would seem a positive development — especially in light of the terrible economic situation in Albania today.
Our community in America, too, is offering help to our compatriots in Albania. Both the Society Farsarotul and the St. Dimitrie Romanian Orthodox Church have organized relief drives, and through their combined efforts, 56 packages of clothing were sent to the Aromanian Society of Albania not long ago. In addition, an effort is underway to sponsor the rebuilding of churches for our communities in Korce, Voskopolje, Dishnitsa, and Selenitsa — at the request of those communities. The intention is not to make any decisions for them, but merely to provide them with a way to obtain the resources they need to achieve their own objectives. We are currently discussing methods for achieving accountability for the funding (construction supervision, disbursement in stages, and so on). Tax-deductible donations can be made either to the Society Farsarotul/ Albania Account or to St. Dimitrie Church/ARA and sent to our address. Please give generously.
“All things begin in mystery and end in politics.”